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If you want to lose weight fast, the keto diet can help. Low in carbs, going keto turns your body into a fat-burning, weight-losing machine. Without dietary carbs, you’ll get to eat lots of healthy fat and protein – two very filling types of food. As a result, you won’t feel hungry even though the weight literally falls off your body.
Of course, there is always a downside, and with this diet, it’s something called the keto flu. One symptom of which is fruity breath. Chewing gum on keto and help alleviate this problem.
Unfortunately, not all gums are the same, and while some are perfectly fine on keto, others may actually derail your diet. It’s important to be able to differentiate the keto-appropriate gums from the bad.
Choosing sugarless gum is a good place to start, but there are a few other things you need to consider before opening a pack of gum and chewing up a storm. In this article, we will examine all things keto gum-related so that you can make the best possible choice.
What causes keto breath?
Keto breath is what people often call the fruity smell that accompanies going into ketosis. You may also notice the same smell coming from your urine. What you can smell is acetone, a type of ketone body. In many ways, this odor is good news because it shows your diet is working, and your body is busy burning all that unwanted fat.
On the downside, that fruity-smelling breath can be a little unpleasant. That’s especially true if you work in a public-facing job, or your nearest and dearest isn’t also following a keto diet; other people tend to notice keto breath more than you will. Keto breath may also make your food taste a little off. It won’t taste bad, but you may notice the difference.
So, why do you get keto breath? Good question!
When you reduce your carb intake to less than 50 grams per day, and preferably between 20-30 grams, your body starts using fat for fuel instead of glucose. Unfortunately, your brain cannot use fat for energy and converts fat into ketones, an energy source it can use.
Turning fat into ketones is a labor-intensive process. It takes a lot of fat to make relatively few ketones. This enhances calorie burning and leads to faster weight loss. In addition, in ketosis, your body gets very good at burning fat. It’s like your fat-burning thermostat gets turned up to the max.
These dramatic internal changes produce a few symptoms and side effects, collectively called the keto flu. Most of the symptoms of keto flu vanish after a week or two, but keto breath may not. Keto breath is merely a sign that your body is producing an abundance of ketones. That’s why, if use keto testing strips, ketones show up in your urine.
Chewing gum – a cure for keto breath?
If you have keto breath, you can mask it with mouthwash or by brushing your teeth more often. While both of these strategies will work, they are not especially convenient. After all, who carries a bottle of mouthwash with them?
Chewing mints is another potential solution, but most mints contain sugar. This means they will not only disrupt ketosis; they are also bad for your teeth. A typical mint like a Mentos contains about three grams of carbs – most of which is sugar. That’s like eating half a teaspoon of sugar each time you pop one in your mouth.
Chewing zero calorie gum is a much better option. Flavored gum will effectively mask keto breath and freshen your mouth. The best sugar-free gum is also good for your teeth and gums. Some even have a mild tooth whitening effect.
However, unless you seek out keto friendly gum, it would be very easy to accidentally choose one that kicks you out of ketosis. One stick of regular sugar-sweetened gum contains about two grams of carbs. That might not sound like a lot but, if you have a pack a day, you could end up adding an extra 15-20 grams of carbs per day to your intake. That might be enough to disrupt your fat burning ketogenic state.
Sugar-free gum is a much better choice. Without the sugar, sugar-free gum is virtually carb and calorie free. Available in lots of different flavors, chewing sugar-free gum is a convenient and cost-effective way to deal with keto breath.
Ingredients to avoid and look for in sugar-free gum
There are lots of sugar-free chewing gums available, and each one has its own unique recipe. The main difference is what is used as a sweetener in place of sugar. This is an important consideration and means you need to choose your gum wisely.
Some gums use aspartame. Aspartame is a widely used sweetener, but it may be something you should avoid, especially in large amounts.
Aspartame is broken down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. These substances are toxic in high amounts. Studies also suggest that aspartame has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and even increased body mass index. Some experts have gone so far as to say that aspartame is a “multi-potential carcinogenic compound” meaning it may be responsible for a range of cancers.
The occasional diet soda sweetened with aspartame or stick of aspartame-sweetened sugar-free gum is probably not something to worry about. However, with keto breath, you may find yourself chewing sugar-free gum all day which means you could end up ingesting a lot of aspartame. Because of this, you may want to consider using aspartame-free gum instead.
So, if aspartame is off the menu, what is the best sweetener to look for in sugar-free gum? The answer is sugar alcohols, also known as polyols.
Sugar alcohols are a hybrid of sugar and alcohol. Despite this, your body cannot digest them very well which means they pass through your intestines mostly intact. They are, however, very sweet and contain about half the calories of sugar. This means that a small amount of sugar alcohol goes a very long way and because so little is needed, they provide no significant amounts of calories or carbs.
Commonly used sugar alcohols include:
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH)
Of all these ingredients, the one you should actively look for is xylitol, also known as birch sugar. Xylitol is recommended by dentists due to its oral health benefits and ability to clean teeth. Studies show that xylitol destroys the bacteria in your mouth that can cause cavities and tooth decay. This helps explain why chewing sugar-free gum after meals is such a good idea if brushing your teeth is impractical.
Xylitol also has a fresh taste which means it works well in mint-flavored gum. Also, because xylitol is found in many fruits and vegetables, it is considered natural and a much better alternative to aspartame.
While xylitol is an excellent choice for sugar-free gum, it does have one potential drawback. Consumed in large amounts, and especially for those people who have a pre-existing sensitivity, xylitol can cause bloating, loose stools, and even diarrhea.
It seems that, when consumed in large amounts, xylitol can ferment in your stomach and intestines and that leads to digestive upset. The good news is that these issues are very rare, especially if you limit your intake to no more than 20 grams per day. That should be easy to achieve because one stick of sugar-free gum only contains about 150-200 mg of xylitol!
What about stevia?
Stevia is another sugar-free sweetener that is sometimes used in gum. Stevia gum is a good choice but is also less widely available. Stevia is a sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America. It is 30 to 150 times sweeter than sugar.
However, unless you seek out organic stevia which is, again, harder to locate, you may end up ingesting potentially harmful toxins such as pesticides and herbicides. Because of this, while stevia gum is a good option, it’s not necessarily practical. In contrast, you should have no problem picking up a pack of sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol, even at a regular convenience store or gas station.
To save you having to read the microscopic ingredients lists on your next pack of gum, here are a few keto-friendly gums to try.
Oil pulling – an alternative to gum?
While keto breath is a common issue, not everyone wants to chew gum to relieve it. Chewing gum is not always socially acceptable, and not everyone enjoys doing it. And what do you do with your gum when it loses its flavor? You don’t want to swallow it, but you may not be able to dispose of it responsibly either. Tricky!
One option that may help is oil pulling. Oil pulling and the keto diet are very compatible. After all, you should have an abundant supply of suitable oil as part of your keto diet. What is oil pulling? It’s actually pretty simple.
Just take a tablespoon of olive, coconut, or sesame oil, and swish it around your mouth for 10-15 minutes. Be careful not to swallow any. When you are done, spit it out into a sink or toilet. Rinse your mouth well using water before eating or drinking anything. If 10-15 minutes sounds like a long, start off with just five minutes and increase from there.
Oil pulling is best done first thing in the morning and on an empty stomach. As well as being good for keto breath, oil pulling is believed to be good for your teeth and gums and can kill harmful bacteria in your mouth. It may also be a safe and natural way to whiten your teeth.
Keto breath doesn’t affect everyone on the keto diet, but it bothers enough people that a solution is often very welcome. The good news is that keto breath is an indicator that your diet is working.
If you have keto breath, it’s nice to know that chewing gum can help alleviate this symptom of ketosis. Just make sure you choose a gum what won’t disrupt ketosis and ruin your diet. The artificial sweetener aspartame has too many questions hanging over its safety, so it’s best avoided. Instead, seek out gums sweetened with sugar alcohols and, in particular, xylitol. It’s not only widely available, but it’s also good for your teeth.
Not a gum chewer? No problem? Give oil pulling a try. It’s cheap, effective, and offers a lot of other benefits including gum health and teeth whitening. Don’t let keto breath put you off the ketogenic diet. It’s easy to treat.